Indian Navy Insists Destroyed Ship in Gulf of Aden Was Controlled by Pirates 
By Steve Herman

Nov. 26, 2008
New Deli, India

India's navy says its warship, which sank a pirate-controlled vessel in the Gulf of Aden, had no indication the ship it encountered at sea may have been a Thai fishing boat with hostages on board. The owner of the Ekawat Nava 5 says the Indians should not have fired on the hijacked vessel, which may have claimed the lives of up to 15 fishermen. VOA correspondent Steve Herman has the story from New Delhi.

The International Maritime Bureau is backing the claim of a Thai fishing company that the vessel destroyed by the Indian navy off Yemen was a trawler that had been seized by pirates. The IMB says one Thai fisherman died and 14 others are missing as a result of the maritime clash on November 18.

India's navy is reiterating its claim that the vessel it encountered 285 nautical miles from shore was a "mother ship" of a group of pirates, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, who first fired upon the Indian naval ship Tabar. Indian Navy Lt. Commander Rajesh Nair tells VOA News the warship had no choice but to retaliate.

"Any vessel, on challenging in international waters, is a threat. It being a pirate ship, it was acting as one and we had to fire upon them," he said.

The navy spokesman says the crew of the Tabar saw no markings on the hostile vessel indicating it might have been a legitimate fishing vessel that had been seized. The owner of Sirichai Fisheries in Thailand, Wicharn Sirichaiekawat, tells VOA News he is angry that the Indian navy frigate did not try to search for and render aid to his men who were on the destroyed trawler, the Ekawat Nava 5.

"They have to accept that OK, they sank our boat by accident or mistake or whatever," he said. "And we'd like to ask them whether have they looked for the missing crew because they are humans. Even during war, if people survive, you have to help them no matter whether they're enemy or not."

The IMB says other vessels in the area, including naval ships, were quickly notified that the Kiribati-registered boat, with a crew of 16, had been hijacked. A Cambodian survived and was rescued five days later by Yemeni fishermen. He told them one of his Thai colleagues had died at sea while they awaited rescue, but he did not know the fate of the others - some of whom may have been killed on board when the Indian navy opened fire.

-Steve Herman

(Reprinted with the permission of Voice of America)
© 2008 Voice of America all rights reserved


Page published Nov. 30, 2008